Top 10 things to do in the city
Srinagar (and Kashmir as a whole) had been on our shortlist for a long time but we could not manage a trip here. The last trip to Kashmir was a fleeting visit we could afford during the run to Leh. Even this trip turned out shorter than I would have liked, but, hey, I can’t complain!
My first preference, as always, was to drive down, but since it would take up 4 days (to and fro), ditched the road-trip idea and chose to fly.
An early morning flight from Delhi ensures the day you land in Srinagar can be used to roam around in the city. The very next day you can venture outside the city. Crucial for people on a strict timeline. About an hour into the flight, Captain informed on the PA system about the peaks being visible down below. What a view it was!!
We decided to explore the city on the day we landed, as we wanted to visit Doodhpathri and Aru Valley on subsequent days.
Kashmir was under Mughal rulers for almost 200 years and this reflects in the number of Mughal gardens that are spread across the city. All of them are built on the typical Charbagh template of the Mughal gardens. This lends incredible symmetry to the gardens and with flowers in full bloom, makes them look majestic!
1. Shalimar Bagh
Tucked in a corner of the city, it does not see much crowd. One can spend some quality time here in solitude, enjoying the garden just as the Royals did, probably. That is, once you can escape the multiple photographers who insist on taking a photo in the traditional Kashmiri attire. Surprisingly, a snap on the smartphone is also included in their services. Signs of the changing times.
During the months of March - April when the Tulips are in full bloom, it is a especially beautiful. At the time of our visit, Tulips were still blooming and it was a wonderful sight.
There are also several centuries old Chinar trees (just as many other parts of the city). Placards are conveniently placed before them, making it easy to spot. Do note, the fountains now run on electricity, and if there is no electricity, they won’t be operational.
2. Nishat Bagh
This is the largest of all the gardens in the city and thus attracts the maximum crowd. It has a stepped layout and has 3 different garden levels. All based on the Charbagh garden theme. If you keep walking up to the top most level, you are sure to find some peace on the adjoining lawns. Sun light just about manages to filter through the dense trees to reach the ground here. You can carry your food or even buy some from a small shop at the end of this lawn. Ideal picnic spot! In fact, if you visit on a weekend, you will see many locals doing exactly the same.
3. Hazratbal Shrine
It is a revered place of worship, as it holds the relic – Moi-e-Muqqadas. Believed by many to be a hair of Muhammad. With Pir Panjals forming the backdrop against the white marble mosque, it looks striking on a clear day from the opposite bank of the lake.
4. Tulip Garden
It opens for only 1 month each year – when the Tulips fully bloom. Usually from March last week to April last week. Do not miss this if you are in the city when it is open. We missed it by 2 days.
5. Chashme Shahi
It is a Mughal garden, built around a natural spring. The spring lends this garden the name – Chashm-e-shahi or “The Royal Spring”. You can drink the water right from the spring, tastes pretty sweet. Infact, water from this spring was carried all the way to Delhi for our first prime minister, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru. Beat that! (Source)
All the roaming around can make one hungry. If you are near Chashmeshahi, you can stop over for lunch at the JKTDC Chashmeshahi. Nice property with a good view. The food is good as well. We tried their Yakhni and other regular items. It was, well, different, but we liked it. It somewhat resembles Kadhi that is a popular dish in Northern Indian. Rice is an integral part of the Kashmiri cuisine, and preferred by locals over bread (roti/phulka/chapati). Most of the traditional curries are thus, better suited to be enjoyed with rice. Keep that in mind, while ordering.
6. Pari Mahal
A short drive up from Chashme Shahi, is the Pari Mahal. Truly an amazing place, it offers unparalleled views of the whole Srinagar and Dal lake. Sunset view from here is a show in itself, I am told. Unfortunately we reached here quite early and couldn't stay back till the sunset as we wanted to cover the rest of the city. Nevertheless, the weather turned cloudy soon and we enjoyed our time here. Since it is at an elevation compared to the city, it is quite windy up there.
7. Dal lake – Shikara ride into a floating city
Dal is the identity of Srinagar and the Shikara that of Dal. Don’t miss to take a Shikara ride in Dal, especially in the evenings. It is an amazing experience.
There is a floating city, so to say, inside the Dal. The view of rows after rows of houseboats, actually hides the true Dal. There are people living here from several generations. If you take the Shikara, towards the inner routes, you can see the various shops, sellers, even kitchen gardens of residents.
Lowest charge for a Shikara ride is about ₹500 for an hour.
8. Makai Point
This place has multiple street stalls serving the same barbecued Kebabs. Mutton is clearly the more popular choice of the locals. Chicken has to make do with second spot. One has to enjoy these Kebabs with a version of Rumali roti and 2 varieties of home made mayonnaise. We were so engrossed in eating, forgot to click the plates! Criminal! I know, I am sorry! Sun begins to set as we are enjoying the Kebabs and paints a beautiful picture.
9. The Wazwan
Contrary to popular notion, Wazan is not one particular dish. Rather, it is multi-course meal (with as much as 36 courses!). Majority of which, are meat preparations. It lasts late into the night and is usually arranged for special occasions such as marriage. An interesting trivia about Wazwan shared by our local friends – Wazwan has upto 40k calories on a platter, it is shared between 4 people. Still, about 10k calories per person!
One of the most famous and best places to enjoy Wazwan in Srinagar, is Ahdoos. Even though they claim the platter is for a single person, no way in hell, can a single person finish it. Our friends also hanged up their boots mid way. The plate it is served in is called a Trami. Traditionally, 4 people share a single plate. But here at Ahdoos, it’s a per person affair, so you are on your own on this crusade, lol!
You have to choose the dishes (both veg and mutton) from a long list. Rice and Kebabs are included. No breads (roti/phulka/chapati) here, mind you.
The dishes we chose – Mutton Kebab, Methi Maaz, Tabakh Maaz, Rista, Marchwangan Korma, Rogan Josh, Danwal Kurma, Paneer, Gustaba (The main item, served last, so don’t fill yourself up with the previous items, it is a must try).
10. Lal Chowk – Shopping capital of Srinagar
The day ends here with some shopping for the often end up paying different rates for the same thing. Thanks immensely to our local friends, we were able to get some good deals. Don’t hesitate to bargain.
This area also sees maximum disturbances as it's close to older parts of the city and it’s easy to have a large gathering here due to the open area near the clock tower. Take a status update from the hotel or locals before heading out this way.
There are tons of options, and I mean tons! You can choose from houseboats, hotels or home-stays - in every price range imaginable. Take a look at TripAdvisor to shortlist one you like the most.
To Sum Up
A day is not really enough to go around Srinagar, but if you are desperate, it's easy to check off the above 10 things to do in Srinagar. Ideally it's better keep at least a couple of days in hand to really experience the place. Since the conditions can take a turn anytime here, an extra couple of day may come in really handy.
Keep Rocking, Keep Roaming!